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Indo-Pak War 1965


Indo-Pak War 1965 In a sense the September 1965 War between India and Pakistan was the last of the three-phased conflicts of the year between the two countries following a limited probe operation at the Rann of Kutch in April, a Pakistani infiltration in disguise in Kashmir in August, and the final showdown by crossing each other's international boundaries in September. In a wider perspective the war originated not from the events of one particular year, but from a sense of mutual hostility and distrust between the two countries created due to the very nature of their birth in the atmosphere of communal discord. Notwithstanding the Kashmir War in 1948, and Pakistan's subsequent control over a part of Kashmir as well as the accession of the Jammu and Kashmir state into Indian Union and the diplomatic parleys in and outside the forum of the United Nations, Pakistan failed to come out with a Kashmir settlement of its choice which ultimately would mean its accession to her. In the wake of the Sino-Indian War in 1962 and following the Anglo-American military aid to India, that possibility on Kashmir started appearing more remote and bleak to Pakistan. To a military ruler like Ayub Khan, it therefore appeared like taking another military involvement and encounter in order to arrive at a solution.

Prelude to the War Rann of Kutch Incident' The Rann of Kutch is a 320 miles long and 50 miles wide area of barren and marshy land between the Indian state of Gujrat and the Pakistani province of Sind. At the time of the partition and in the backdrop of the Boundary Commission's failure to make a ruling on the Rann, dispute arose between the two newly independent countries over an area of about 3500 square miles. On 9 April 1965 fighting erupted when the Pakistani troops penetrated into the disputed area claiming that the Indian forces had struck at a Pakistani position near Kanjarkot. The fight escalated quickly and the Pakistan army started using the new Patton tanks acquired from USA. Finally, through the mediation of British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and the efforts of British High-Commissioners in India (John Freeman) and Pakistan (Sir Morrice James) a cease-fire was effected from 1 July 1965.

However, years before the Rann of Kutch affair there had been incidents as well as statements that helped deteriorate further the relations between the two countries. Along the long border between Pakistan and India reports of violations and other incidents were regular features. In the first five months of 1965 the UN military observer group for India and Pakistan posted along the cease-fire line between them, reported 2231 complaints by India and Pakistan. Observer group also confirmed 377 violations during this period 218 of which were committed by Pakistan and 159 by India. Ayub Khan made it clear that Pakistan government would not be obliged to go to war if the Kashmir problem was solved satisfactorily for it 'affects our security and our whole existence. On the question of 'no-war pact' offerd by India he commented while Kashmir dispute exists, it is inconceivable that we should accept India's offer of a no-war pact.'

Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir Ayub Khan had been eyeing on these developments with increasing intensity. By August he possibly came to the decision that he 'no longer had much to lose' if he resorted to the use of force in Kashmir, an option suggested in Pakistani circle about three years back at the time of Sino-Indian War. Ayub was equally eager to divert the gradually shaping domestic discontents against him subscribing thereby to the theory that 'hostility to the out-group fosters patriotism and unity at home. The advisers of Ayub Khan formed a small group around him, who planned and endorsed the clandestine operations of Azad Kashmir guerrillas and Pakistani regulars in Kashmir. Known as the 'Operation Gibraltar' it aimed at localizing the encounter with India strictly to Kashmir area; but as it happened later, it ultimately turned around and forced Pakistan to get involved in a large-scale war with India.

The Gibraltar Force consisted of approximately 7000 Mujahidin from Pakistan held Azad Kashmir. On 5 August Indian government announced that a major infiltration of disguised armed militias had taken place in Indian part of Kashmir and that regular Pakistani troops had been firing across the cease-fire line. Indian forces retaliated and by 15 August recaptured the three strategic mountain positions in Kargil on the northern front. In another ten days India captured several other Pakistani positions including Pir Saheba on the north-western front and Haji Pir Pass on the west-central front. By 27 August the Indian forces had crossed the cease-fire line in the Uri-Bedori area. On 1 September Pakistan attacked the Bhimbar-Chhamb area in the south-western edge of the cease-fire line in Kashmir. The hostilities gradually escalated and on 6 September Indian forces crossed the international border in the Punjab area of Pakistan launching thereby a major offensive towards Lahore in order to relieve the pressure on the Kashmir front. Pakistan's infiltration plan thus failed but not before escalating the intended border conflict into a full-fledged war.

The September War Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was credited for taking the step of opening the Punjab front across the international border which from Indian point of view, was indeed a very bold move to secure and save her overland communications with the Kashmir valley. The Indian army launched two simultaneous attacks across the international border, one on 6 September directed towards Lahore, and the other on the next day towards the town of Sialkot which Pakistan had been using for supplying the Chhamb sector force in Kashmir. The Lahore assault gained some initial successes but on way was halted by a line of irrigation canal which Pakistan had turned into a moat by blowing up as many as seventy bridges across it. Pakistan however launched a counter-offensive at Khem Kharan, a small city in Indian Punjab. Pakistan's First Armoured Division with the active strength of about 120-150 tanks, had led this attack; but it suffered a substantial number of casualties following an Indian pre-positioned ambush. While in the Sialkot sector the largest tank battle involving about 400 to 600 tanks from both sides, were engaged, it finally came out to be a success for Pakistan in the sense that Indian advances towards the city of Sialkot were halted. But as the fight continued both the parties started becoming 'amenable' to a cease-fire. Pakistan's military position in particular started getting steadily weaker as in the first place, its forces found it unable to break through Indian lines, and secondly, its supplies, particularly the ammunition supplies were dwindling. Quite a substantial number of her tanks were bogged down particularly at Khem Kharan sector. Also by that time Kashmir campaign lost its momentum as Pakistani contingents were forced to divert and rush into the Punjab sector. Pakistan also failed to get British-American support to function outside the UN forum. Consequently, when the UN Secretary General passed a strongly-worded unanimous resolution on 20 September calling for a cease-fire, India accepted it on 21 September and Pakistan followed her the day following.

In terms of casualties both men and materials till the final declaration of cease-fire both India and Pakistan put more or less exaggerated figures while claiming the gains and losses. Washington Post on 17 October 1965 quoting one study in military circle in Washington, estimated the Pakistani loss at 200 tanks with another 150 out of action, but later reassembled, out of her total strength of 1100. Whereas India lost between 175 and 190 tanks and another 200 put temporarily out of commission from her total number of 1450 tanks. With regard to aircraft Pakistan lost about 20 planes but India lost a greater number of aircrafts in between 65 to 70. Regarding human casualties it was estimated that, Pakistan suffered casualties of about 3800 persons which were 3000 for India. On the other hand, in terms of territorial losses Pakistan lost about 720 square miles of her territory as against the Indian loss of about 300 square miles. One aspect of Pakistani casualties was her deployment of a large number of American Patton tanks and her proportionate losses in this respect. Despite these gains and losses on both sides one may well-argue that the 'war ended too soon' for either side to demonstrate its military superiority. As Sumit Ganguly aptly argues: 'Had the cease-fire come some weeks later the war might have had a different conclusion. Despite the better quality of the weaponry possessed by the Pakistanis the Indians had greater war-making potential in the form of industrial capacity. Thus, in a longer war the Pakistanis might have found themselves at a significant disadvantage. This was corroborated by some Pakistani writers also who equally hinted along this line particularly mentioning the precarious ammunition shortage of Pakistan. Asghar Khan's account in particular describes how desperately he and his team went on ammunition supply mission outside for Pakistan.

Following the cease-fire, the two warring parties however took about three months to do the needed groundwork for sitting for a peace negotiation at Tashkent under Soviet sponsorship. During the war, the Soviet Union adopted 'a public posture of neutrality evidently to avoid driving Pakistan closer to China. This Soviet concern prompted Premier Kosygin to offer Ayub and Shastri even during the war, a meeting at Tashkent to discuss their differences. Both the parties finally accepted it on 22 September. Obviously Ayub's increasing loss of hope of US help to solve the problem on his terms, led him to place a renewed hope upon the Soviet Union. But at Tashkent Ayub found it hard to achieve anything of that sort. Finally, through the untiring efforts of Kosygin, the Tashkent Declaration was signed on 10 January 1966, which officially mentioned in its concluding paragraph, the presence of Kosygin as 'witness' to this Declaration. Shastri agreed to concede to Pakistan the captured strategic position of the Haji Pir Pass and Titwal in Pakistan held Kashmir area. This however brought some discontent in India. But apart from that, as Russell Brines comments, Shastri gave up little at Tashkent. The death of Shastri at Tashkent itself no doubt was a loss for India. But Ayub came away without having achieved much. As a result the 1965 war and more importantly its outcome probably marked the beginning of Ayub's end.

On 22 January 1966 India and Pakistan signed in New Delhi a Withdrawal of Troops Agreements under which they started troops withdrawal from 25 January from along the cease-fire line stretching from Rajasthan to Jammu and Kashmir on Indian side and the Western Pakistan border on Pakistan side. [Nurul Huda Abul Monsur]

Bibliography Russell Brines, The Indo-Pakistani Conflict (London, 1968); Sumit Ganguly, Origins of Wars in South Asia Indo-Pakistan Conflicts since 1947 (Lahore, 1988); Brigadier (Retd.) Gulzar Ahmed, Pakistan Meets Indian Challenge: A Pakistani's Perspective of the 1965 War (Dera Dun, 1991, 1st Pakistani ed. 1967); Stanley Wilbert, Sulfa Bhutto of Pakistan His Life and Times (Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1993); General (Retd.) Mohammad Musa, My Version India-Pakistan War 1965 (Lahore, Wajidalis, 1983); Air Marshall (Retd.) M. Asghar Khan, The First Round Indo-Pakistan War 1965 (New Delhi, 1979); Lt. General (Retd.) Harbaksh Singh, War Dispatches The Indo-Pak Conflict 1965 (New Delhi, 1991).